This is my ninth year as your consulting minister; though it has always been a part-time, year-to-year contract position, I think the commitment between the congregation and me has felt more like that of a settled or “called” ministry position. We have been, in my opinion, a wonderful match for each other. We have successfully shared ministry together, from creating a warm, nurturing spiritual community of all ages to becoming more involved in anti-racist initiatives that match the promise of our Black Lives Matter flag, including such nascent organizations as Merrimack Valley Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) and the Merrimack Valley Interfaith Sanctuary Network.
Throughout the fall, I have been in discernment as to what is best for the UUCiA in moving forward. I have been impressed by the commitment of the fUUture Task Force and the Board in thinking through options for financial stability. I have been impressed by the engagement of the congregation in attending the information meetings and the Mid-Year Meeting as well.
I have been deeply touched that so many of you want to find a way to keep my time at three-quarters. I also feel that in some ways, the conversation about the future of the congregation has focused too much on keeping me as the minister, whether at three-quarter-time or half-time.
I strongly believe that the congregation needs to focus on its mission and vision beyond the question of who is serving as your professional minister. After much discernment, I feel that my continuing presence will distract and detract from the work that you need to put before you in the months and years to come.
The congregation needs to look ahead courageously and with hope and perhaps even an entrepreneurial spirit. I am choosing to leave now because I believe that the congregation will be in a better position to take a fresh look at its future with a new professional minister. I do not make this decision lightly, or without sadness. I am currently “in search”. There are some exciting possibilities for me, and I will certainly let you know what my next professional step will be.
Please know that I am very happy to serve as your minister for the next several months; we have enough time for a good leave-taking, and we also have a chance to have a meaningful second half of the congregational year. I am giving months of notice in part so that the Board and other lay leaders will have time to be in touch with New England Region staff as well as the Transitions Office at the Unitarian Universalist Association as you begin to think about the direction you would like to take in terms of professional ministry.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being a wonderful congregation.
With love and in faith,
Rev. M. Lara Hoke